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Archive for November, 2012

No joy today

Jeff Tedford was fired today.

It was the right decision.

But that doesn’t make it any less disheartening.

Tedford was the best thing to happen to Cal football in at least 25 years, if not 50. How can one be happy when his time has passed? It’s like being joyful at a funeral because you’ll be able to go play golf tomorrow and not go to the retirement home to visit grandpa. Yeah, the retirement home can be dreary and depressing, kinda like the last 5 football games, but I can’t be happy today at Tedford’s funeral because I don’t have to sit through another difficult game with him at the helm.

This doesn’t change at all that firing him was necessary (and please don’t complete my previous metaphor about grandpa… its limited applicability ended with the sadness, NOT with Euthanasia) and frankly, I think it was that sort of determination by Barbour to do what was necessary that Tedford lacked in recent years.

The big question is, how could a coach who had done so well for so long, fall so hard? We all know that the program has been on the wrong path for at least a few years, but how many was it? Why was Longshore that last QB to have true success under Tedford? Why did a team that ALWAYS won their bowl game start losing them and then not even making it to them? Why did a team that tended to finish strong, so often finish with a whimper?

And when did it really start? Did it start when Maynard was named QB (and perhaps as a concession to Allen)? Did it start in 2010, the first losing season? Or how about 2009, where the Bears lost their final two games after upsetting both Arizona and Stanford?

I’ve thought about this a lot and for me I think it all goes back to the most iconic moment in Tedford’s career… the last second lost to Oregon State in 2007. I’ve had this thought for a long time, but I haven’t been sure or confident in it, so I’ve been hesitant to harp on such an overly analyzed moment.

But now that Tedford has been fired, I think it is time to take stock of his entire career, leaving no stone unturned, and there’s no doubt in my mind that the moment Kevin Riley was tackled and Tedford let his emotions get the better of him for just a second, was the moment everything changed.

Ryan Gorcey summed it up very well in his column today:

After heaving his headset to the turf following a rookie play by rookie quarterback Kevin Riley on Oct. 13, 2007, when the Bears were just moments from being the top team in the land, thanks to a bevy of other upsets, Tedford vowed to be more in-control on the sidelines, to be more of a CEO. What he became was even more conservative, even more guarded, even more insular.

Before that night, Tedford was 48-20 as Cal’s head coach, with a 27-14 record against the Pac-10. Since that night — including that gut-wrenching loss — Tedford is 33-37 overall, and 21-30 against conference opponents.

Before that night, Cal had lost just six games by 14 points or more. Since then? 17 losses by 14 points or more. Tedford has gone 2-4 against the Cardinal. He has gone to four bowl games, and lost twice, having not won a bowl game since the 2008 Emerald Bowl in San Francisco.

This is a man that has let his caring for his players — who has let the desire to please his charges, and to do what he thinks is best for them — get in the way of doing what needs to be done, of adjusting and changing and adapting. By his own admission, he has trusted players too much, particularly when it came to finishing their degrees — with a vast majority of players who count against the graduation success rate still having two or fewer online classes to take after promising Tedford years ago that they would get them taken care of.

Frankly, the numbers Gorcey references speak for themselves and prove that 10/13/2007 was the day when everything changed. But why? Why did that somewhat innocuous, understandable mistake (a rookie mistake by a rookie), have had such tremendous effect on the program?

And the answer is because Tedford’s heart grew 10 sizes that day and he lost the edge that made him the successful coach he was.

Many times after that year, Tedford made significant changes to the program, but they were all just a futile effort, an exercise in re-arranging the deck chairs as the ship went down, because the one thing that really needed changing, was the one thing he was unwilling to do… to return to the hard-edged Tedford that built up the program.

That hard-edged Tedford was a man that Tedford himself didn’t like. It was a hard, driven man, who was decisive and determined. Before that day, when Tedford was asked a stupid question in a post-game interview, the reporter would shrink after Tedford’s cut-throat answer and intimidating stare let the reporter know he was an idiot.

Since that day, Tedford answered questions in a far more dismissive and non-confrontational way. While there was still a gruff edge to him, it was more like a curmudgeoney old man instead of a heartless dictator. Mostly, he kept his demons bottled up inside and did his best to answer with platitudes so as not to be overly harsh or confrontational.

Looking at the transformation a different way, Tedford took stock of himself after that night and decided he didn’t like what he saw in the mirror. He vowed to change who he was and win a different way.

Sadly, he never found a way to do it.

In short, that fateful night in 2007 was the moment that Tedford contracted a disease that ended up being terminal. He let compassion get in the way of leadership. He let kindness get in the way of truth. He let generosity get in the way of righteousness.

So how can I be happy when compassion, kindness and generosity killed a beloved coach’s job; when compassion, kindness and generosity allowed him only one season in The House that Tedford Built; when compassion, kindness and generosity cause people to dance on his grave?

I just can’t be happy that these are the things that took Tedford down, no matter how true it is and how necessary it was that he be fired. I can’t imagine being anything but devastated when taking stock of what caused his fall from grace, no matter how painful a fall it was.

Tedford, if you ever read this, (and I don’t think I’m alone in feeling this way) you will always be considered a Cal great in my eyes and I will always look back on your time as the Cal football coach with fondness. I’m very sorry it had to end this way and will always look back on today with a certain sense of regret, no matter how successful Cal is in the future.

I will instead do my best to chose to remember moments like USC 2003, Oregon 2006 and 2007, Tennessee 2007, all the Big Games you won, particularly 2002 and 2009, the 2003 Insight Bowl, the 2006 Holiday Bowl and 2008 Emerald Bowl. These were great moments for Cal football and we have you to thank for them.

Thank you for your 11 years of faithful service to Cal football. California Memorial Stadium will ALWAYS be The House that Tedford Built and someday, when time has allowed for hardened hearts to soften, I hope to see a statue out front to commemorate that.

Is HydroTech my alter ego?

Saw Hydro’s last post on CGB, including this tidbit:

I have not ONCE ever stopped watching a game early. No matter how bad the loss. No matter how painful it was to watch. Yes, I’ve sat through the drubbings we received from Oregon in 2008 and 2009. The USC losses where we were competitive for about half a quarter. Watched all that [redacted]. Except for this game. For the first time in 11 years I turned off the TV and went about the rest of my life like a Cal Football game wasn’t on.

The same is true for me.

I was there when the clock expired against Oregon just over a week ago, when everyone else had been frozen out. I sat through the 2009 Oregon drubbing (although we won in 2008, so he’s misremembering that one). I’ve also never left or turned it off.

But on Saturday night, watching via a crummy streaming connection and getting tired, I asked myself what the point of this was during the 3rd quarter and I turned it off and watched a movie.

When both HydroTech and KenCraw do that, it’s time for a coaching change.

While on the topic of HydroTech, it appears he’s turning in his blogging keys and moving on with his life.

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank him for his years of service to the Cal blogosphere and wish him the best of luck in his culinary endeavors. Your voice will be missed Hydro!

BCS fallout thoughts

Still don’t have a lot to say about the Bears, although I probably will have some larger reflections about things after this afternoon’s meeting between Barbour and Tedford, particularly if it goes the way I think it goes…

But right now I want to give some hope to Oregon fans: YOU NEED NO MIRACLE!

It’s amazing how analysts don’t look forward and do some easy calculations when they talk about things. Here’s what Oregon needs:

  1. USC to beat Notre Dame on its home turf
  2. UCLA to beat Stanford
  3. Win their remaining games against OSU and then the Pac-12 title game against UCLA at home.

I ask anyone out there to give me a different team who would play the winner of the SEC title game for the BCS championship besides Oregon in that scenario.

Kansas State lost to a FAR inferior team than Oregon did, so they’re going to swap spots relative to each other. Notre Dame will have lost more recently than Oregon, always a bad thing in the BCS, and will return to their spot below Oregon as they have all season.

Then there’s the 3 SEC teams with one loss (Alabama, Georgia and Florida), of which either Alabama or Georgia will have a loss from the SEC title game. So the question is can Florida, who lost to Georgia, make it a 2nd consecutive year of an all-SEC title game? That’s the strongest possibility that would keep Oregon out, but my gut says no. So I guess if you wanted something to REALLY ensure it’ll be Oregon, add Florida State beating Florida this week to the list.

I guess it’s theoretically possible a one-loss Florida State, after upsetting Florida next Saturday as Oregon fans now otherwise want, could get back in the mix, but since they’re currently #10, that’s a HUGE longshot with the ACC not having much respect and their loss to North Carolina State being of a far lesser quality that Oregon’s loss to Stanford.

So I submit to you, if the above happens, all of which is VERY reasonable and not a “miracle” as Ted Miller puts it, Oregon WILL play for the national title.

My momma always said…

If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all…

…and there’s nothing nice to say.

Frankly, it’s been a rough couple weeks all the way around, ever since I got home from Salt Lake City. Pretty much ever since I got off the train I’ve been in over-drive for work, trying to get on top of all the things that need to get done, many of which that are now overdue. Even worse, the near-term future doesn’t look any more hopeful. There’s not an obvious light at the end of my work tunnel, that I can see anyway.

It’s one thing to push really hard when one is motivated or even when one is filled with joy, but it’s a far more difficult slog when the things that usually lift you up are instead crumbling down around you.

Thus, while I have a fairly firm no politics or religion policy on this blog, a policy that came after years of seeing the problems with doing it, (What I’ve learned is that while my faith is the most important thing in my life and I will never shy away from sharing it, there are times to let separate spheres remain separate.) today I’m briefly going to break my rule, not to evangelize (in fact quite the contrary), but to share why I don’t feel much like blogging about our beloved Bears.

One of the key principles of Christianity is hope. A mistake lots of people make about hope is to confuse it with delusional optimism. Instead, hope is not blind… it sees all that is going wrong and honestly faces reality. However, hope still overcomes. Hope refuses to despair in the face of troubling realities. When one believes in miracles, in an afterlife and in a loving God, one need not despair in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles.

As a bit of an aside, it’s actually one of the great thing about sports, is that it is a place where there are so many opportunities for hope. If nothing else, there’s always next season, right?

Nevertheless, because hope is not blind, unlike the Fox News set that delusionally thought that Romney would win on Tuesday, I had no such false illusions. Actually, it goes far deeper than that. I not only thought he would lose, I also had no illusion that Romney was a candidate worthy of being disappointed in his losing. Frankly, he’s the worst of the Republican party and a sign that the party is completely untethered from reality and also from the key principles that should motivate them.

Sadly, the alternatives are far worse. I’m sure there are plenty of Obama fans amongst my readers, so I’ll refrain from giving a long litany of why, despite how horrible Romney is, I could never throw my support behind Obama. Thus, I’ve got nowhere to turn. For those who’ve never been in this place, let me tell you, it’s quite depressing when everything you see on the ballot is the wrong choice. Frankly, it’s hard to see any reason to be hopeful, politically speaking.

When that’s the case, it’s nice when some other aspect of one’s life can give one reason to hope. And so I went to last Friday’s game against Washington hoping for a reason to hope. What I instead witnessed was a similarly disgusting display of incompetence from both teams.

Frankly, the parallel was too much to bear. Two teams, both too incompetent to watch and the team I root for (at this point the analogy becomes weak, as I don’t really “root” for Republicans, but for truth), is the loser, the more incompetent between two bumbling, pathetic teams. Man… this sure sounds a lot like the current political climate to me.

All of this is a long way of saying that between being extremely busy at work (and without much hope of that changing), having very little free time for my mind to find something to be positive about, and my favorite pass-time being so utterly depressing and hopeless, the Bears have very purposely been the furthest thing from my mind.

Because the truth of the matter is that football is just a game, politics is generally just a different game that has less impact than the pundits tell us (at least in a free country), and there is much to be both thankful for and hopeful about.

This life we have is a beautiful and hopeful one, and I refuse to let a game rob me of that hope and joy.

I’m sure the day where I can have hope in our beloved Bears is not too far away. Theoretically it could come as soon as Saturday night, even if the Bears lose. Anything from a strong performance by Bridgeford, or a repeat of 2010 where the Bear defense does what no other team has been able to pull off (did you know that Kelly’s Ducks have only been held below 19 twice? The 2010 game against the Bears, and Kelly’s first game in 2009 against Boise State.).

But even if it doesn’t come Saturday, hope will return to Cal football, likely sooner rather than later. Unfortunately, until either that happens or I get a strong injection of hope from some other aspect of my life that makes it easier to stare into the current Cal abyss, you probably won’t see a lot of posts out of me.

…at least until Saturday night.